It can be quite a scare when a bloody discharge or spotting occurs during a pregnancy. Most people automatically worry about whether or not they are having a miscarriage or that something is wrong with the baby. However, bleeding can be a sign of other things and isn’t always an indication that something bad has happened.

The severity of the bleeding or discharge depends a lot on what stage you are at in the pregnancy, as well as how much bleeding there is.

Bleeding in the first stages of pregnancy

If the bleeding occurs in the first trimester, the largest concern is that the endometrium is breaking down. This is the lining of the uterus where the fertilized egg implants in a normal pregnancy. It can be quite serious if this is the case.

However, in the very early stages of a pregnancy, a little bleeding can be expected. This is called nidation bleeding and comes from the embryo implanting itself into the wall of the uterus. Around 25% of all pregnant women experience a light spotting in the first week that is due to this. Note that the bleeding should not be heavy, and it should not flow like a normal menstruation.

Low hormones can also cause a light, brown discharge to occur. This can happen anywhere from the very early stages through to the second trimester. If you notice this kind of bleeding, it’s best to visit your obstetrician for a diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor can help to increase your hormone levels to the correct balances.

Bleeding can also be a sign that there is a problem with the gestational sac. An abruption is when a portion of the sac detaches from the uterus wall. The larger the abruption, the more likely you are to miscarry. It’s very important to rest once diagnosed with an abruption, as this will take the pressure off the tear and allow it to heal. Your doctor will monitor things very closely if this is the case.

Bleeding throughout your pregnancy

There are numerous causes for spotting or a bloody discharge while pregnant. Women who suffer from endometriosis can expect to experience light bleeding at various points throughout their pregnancy.

Another common condition that causes bleeding is placenta previa. This is when the placenta lies very low in the uterus and can even cover the cervix completely. Women with this condition can experience both bright red, fresh bleeding and a brownish discharge with older blood in it.

IMPORTANT: Not all spotting or brown discharge is a sign of risk. If you are unsure, always ask your obstetrician for a diagnosis.

Main causes of bleeding during pregnancy

Common factors include:

  • Anterior vasa rupture: The rupture of part of the umbilical cord that is attached to the placenta.
  • Marginal sinus rupture: Pieces of the placenta that detach early.
  • Placental abruption: When part of the placenta detaches from the uterine wall, thereby preventing it from providing nutrients and oxygen to the baby.

All of these cases, while common, are also quite dangerous to your baby. It’s important to investigate why you are bleeding and ensure that your doctor can give you a proper diagnosis and treatment plan in plenty of time.

Other causes of bleeding during your pregnancy include infections. A Cervical infection can lead to a brown discharge, as well as a burning sensation when urinating or during intercourse. Depending on how long you’ve had the infection, you may experience intense bleeding that can be quite alarming but isn’t actually a sign of a miscarriage.

A urinary tract infection can also cause bleeding or a brown discharge. You can usually tell if you have this kind of infection because of the other main symptom of pain or discomfort when urinating.

Both kinds of infections can be treated while you are pregnant. It’s important to visit your doctor for testing so that a proper diagnosis can be found. Additionally, a doctor may wish to check for cystitis.

Brown discharge after sexual intercourse

During your second and third trimesters, you may see a brown discharge appear either during or after having sexual intercourse. This is usually just a rupture of blood vessels in the vaginal area, and isn’t a warning sign about your pregnancy. However, if the bleeding intensifies and is accompanied by severe pain, it’s essential to contact your gynecologist immediately.

Essentially, any bleeding during pregnancy should be reported to your obstetrician straight away. It may be nothing, but it’s far better to be safe rather than sorry.

Readers’ questions:

Can brown discharge be a sign I’m pregnant?

Yes, there are some women who see a brown discharge in the first week of being pregnant. This is from the embryo implanting itself into the uterus wall. If you aren’t sure, take a pregnancy test or consult your gynecologist for a more detailed diagnosis.

How do I treat a brown discharge during my pregnancy?

If you are simply getting a discolored discharge, there is no treatment for it. In most cases, the discharge simply clears up on its own. However, if the bleeding is a sign of something more serious, it’s essential to get a diagnosis and treatment plan from your gynecologist.

Does the morning after pill cause a brown discharge?

Yes, it is quite common to have a brown discharge after taking the morning after pill. This is a result of the high level of hormones released by the pill.